Alexander Dybin, Petersburg
Last week, several protests were held in the Leningrad Region against the construction of waste processing complexes in the suburbs of the Northern capital. So in the village of Pervomaisky north of St. Petersburg, the authorities first issued a permit for a street action. But the day before the event, the permit was withdrawn, citing a burst pipe. However, they did not have time to notify everyone who wished, people still came, but instead of a rally, they had to collect signatures. Similar actions were carried out in the village of Razmetelevo and the city of Kirovsk, which is east of St. Petersburg. And residents of the village of Orzhitsa, located southwest of the city, recorded a video message addressed to the chairman of the board of directors of Inter RAO Igor Sechin and the CEO of the corporation Boris Kovalchuk. This company is the founder of the Nevsky Ecological Operator (NEO), which is going to build a waste processing complex near the village.
In 2022, a waste reform was launched in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, which has been implemented in other regions of Russia for two years now. Responsible for the removal of waste in the Northern capital became the reoperator - the NEO company. In the city, with a creak and a garbage collapse, they changed waste disposal contractors. Now the export process is debugged. But while it is being taken to the old landfills in the Leningrad region. According to the logic of the reform, all garbage must pass through waste processing complexes (WTP), which will seize useful fractions and send them for processing, and process the rest into RDF fuel. NEO announced plans to build five such plants: two in the city, three in the Leningrad region. It was these three objects that became the most problematic. The Leningrad region offered the regional manager three locations - former quarries, which are proposed to be recultivated with tailings left over from garbage processing. But all three points were chosen extremely unsuccessfully - not far from the city, among densely populated villages and garden associations, next to valuable natural objects. Very quickly, protest groups formed around each of the plants, which intend to fight the waste enterprises in all available ways, including in the courts.
A waste processing complex near the village of Pervomayskoye was proposed to be located on the basis of an abandoned quarry. But the phrase "garbage plant" hides plans for an area of 60 hectares, which will house a landfill for tailings, as well as 2.7 hectares for leachate sedimentation tanks. The facility will be able to receive 150,000 tons of waste per year.
Residents of neighboring villages and horticulture say that the plant will be located too close to populated areas. More than 10 thousand people live in the zone of influence of the plant. And the landfill and leachate ponds pose a threat to the Sestra and Podgornaya rivers and a number of lakes. Also, one of the most prestigious and expensive districts of St. Petersburg - Kurortny - can fall into the orbit of the plant's influence.
“Residents are categorically against such a neighborhood and I think that there will be more protests”, - says Aleksey Goryachev, a resident of the village of Olshanniki, “a number of factors speak against the plant. The site is located on a hill, near aquifers. In the event of any leakage of leachate, all this will go into rivers and lakes, as well as wells. We were told for a long time about the production of fuel from garbage, but now they showed the project that a large storage field is expected. This means that we are talking about the landfill, and not just one plant. And all this will be on sandy soil and on a hill. All publications from the regional administration say that the nearest village of Olshanniki is located 10 kilometers away, but in fact it is six kilometers away. We are already experiencing problems due to the proximity to the poultry farm, and the location of the landfill will make life unbearable”.
Another object is a landfill near the village of Dubrovka, located in the nearest eastern suburb of St. Petersburg. Here the situation is similar: they promised a plant, and when it came to official documents, it turned out that dozens of hectares were intended for the placement of tailings.
According to activist Larisa Mukhina, residents are ready to start an examination of projects, but have not yet received documents from the authorities and the regional operator. To knock out the necessary documentation, people are ready to go to the courts.
“Why do we need a polygon under the windows?", - says Larisa Mukhina, - under the guise of a plant, they are making a landfill for 90 hectares, and even in a flooded quarry. As far as we can see, no one has studied the hydrology of this object. Even during development, the aquifer was hit and water comes from the ground. How to dry it now? And in the project they write that it is rainwater. We all live with wells and wells, why do we need such an object nearby? It so happened that among the residents there are specialized specialists who can appreciate all this. What is offered to us in the concept is that it provides the income of the regoperator, and not the reform. The government says on screens that we need to improve the environment, and we see diametrically opposite actions”.
The activist believes that the recycler needs to fundamentally revise the concept, because so far it provides opportunities for burying large amounts of garbage, rather than focusing on sorting and recycling.
“We must focus on separate collection and processing”, - says Larisa Mukhina, “and not create new landfills to replace the old ones. Now, if we count all the landfills of the Leningrad region, then their area reaches 1000 hectares. Reality doesn't match words. What is reformist in our garbage reform? Nobody needs the RDF fuel they are talking about. They say that there will be composting technology. An example is KPO "Neva" in the Moscow region. There was just a violation of technology, people got sick, and the plant received a fine of 5,000 rubles. All talk about sorting is imitation. All the beginnings of separate collection in St. Petersburg were killed, processors are not supported. And all because the territorial waste management scheme provides for a mixed waste stream, for which the reoperator receives a fee. Who will refuse money? Mice don't howl at cheese".
Larisa Mukhina says that residents are not against the waste processing plant as such, but against the project in its current form, which also involves a landfill and the use of unsafe technologies. Residents collected 850 signatures, which were sent to all supervising federal officials: Deputy Prime Minister Victoria Abramchenko and other relevant departments.
With this object in the Lomonosovsky district of the Leningrad region, everything is exactly the same as with the previous two: an abandoned quarry and disgruntled residents. Only one more natural-historical nuance is added. It is proposed to place the garbage object next to the drinking spring of Oranienbaum and Kronstadt. In addition, there is a swamp nearby, in which streams feed the fountains of Peterhof. Since last winter, residents have been regularly gathering for mass gatherings, demanding a complete abandonment of garbage plans in this place.
The most recent action is a video message to Igor Sechin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Inter RAO, and Boris Kovalchuk, General Director of the corporation, who, according to residents, can influence the plans of their "daughter", the NEO company.
“We are addressing you not only as top managers of the state corporation, but also as native Leningraders”, - Orzhitsy residents say. - Immediately after the end of the Great Patriotic War, when projects for the restoration of Peterhof, which was almost completely destroyed during the hostilities, were being developed, options for refusing to restore the water supply system were also considered. The time was difficult, the country was in ruins, such a decision could well be explained. But even then, the value of eternal values exceeded momentary benefits.
According to eco-activist Kasimir Vransky, the main source of garbage protests around St. Petersburg is the lack of dialogue with residents and constant omissions from the authorities and project curators:
“The rallies say that people have a request to communicate with the authorities, people do not have answers and understanding of what is happening, what technologies will be used, what will be built,” the expert says. - What will it eventually be? Landfills or factories? Nobody gives a definite answer. This is the main fear, it is fueled by silence. People need to explain everything, there are attempts on the part of the reoperator, but they are sluggish and are moving slowly. Public hearings have passed, there are many proposals, worthwhile options that can at least be discussed. But there is no reaction to it. People have before their eyes examples of other regions, when they promised separate collection and processing, and eventually built new landfills. An important aspect is the allocation of large areas. Why do you need so many if a small plant is announced? Because of this, there is zero trust in the government”.
According to the expert, if you understand the available documentation, then a lot of questions arise about the expediency. For example, why carry garbage from St. Petersburg 50 kilometers away in order to sort the garbage and bring recyclable materials back to the city? It is not easier to arrange sorting in the city. And to carry to the factory only what cannot be reused? These are logical questions, but not for those who will include the cost of the transport shoulder in the tariff and collect money from residents for this.
“People are suggesting how to do it all cheaper. Whatever one may say, this entire reform is being funded by taxpayers”, - says Kasimir Vranski.
Another important interest in this process is the Leningrad region and its waste business. In a huge garbage pie, a significant share of the income is not so much transportation as disposal. The more garbage the landfill accepts, the more money its owner will receive. At the same time, it was the Leningrad Region that provided the locations for the NEO plants. The longer the regoperator will break his teeth about these abandoned quarries, the longer the status quo will remain with the huge flows of St. Petersburg garbage going to the landfills of the Leningrad region.
As Novye Izvestia was informed by the press service of the Nevsky Environmental Operator, procedures for public discussion of project documentation in terms of environmental impact assessment have already been held for two waste processing complexes in Pervomaisky and Dubrovka.
“The next stage is the state environmental review (SEE) of project documentation, where all comments received during public discussions are sent, among other things. Based on the submitted materials, the expert commission of the state ecological expertise should draw conclusions about possible risks for the environment and the sufficiency of the proposed technical solutions. After receiving the conclusion of the SEE, together with the government of the Leningrad Region, further steps for the implementation of these projects will be determined”, - the NEO specified.
There are no decisions yet regarding the construction of a plant in the Lomonosovsky district of the Leningrad region.
“The position has not been determined, due to the lack of initial data for making a decision. We are additionally studying the situation, taking into account the comments of experts and the public regarding the possible negative impact on nearby water bodies, which feed, among other things, the Peterhof water supply system. Currently, a forest development project has been agreed on this territory and engineering surveys are being carried out, based on the results of which a decision will be made on the feasibility of designing this facility”, - the NEO specified.
At the same time, the company noted that while the Leningrad region does not offer other places for the placement of waste plants, and if the regional authorities offer alternative options, the company is ready to consider them.
"The Nevsky Environmental Operator is ready to support any constructive formats of interaction with residents", - the company concluded.